Splenda: Clearing Up A Misconception

On the Low Carb Cruise, I had a conversation with a gentleman who is very anti-sweetener of any kind, up to and including stevia. He's a smart guy, and he had some cogent arguments. However, he was dead wrong about one thing: He said that Splenda was no different from sugar, and that people were fooling themselves to think it was low carb.

He based this opinion on the indisputable fact that most of what is in a bag of granular Splenda (and the knockoffs) is maltodextrin. Maltodextrin is a sugar. So how is Splenda different from sugar?

As anyone who has picked up both a big bag of sugar and a big bag of Splenda can tell you, the Splenda is far, far lighter. The maltodextrin used to bulk the sucralose to a similar sweeteness to sugar is far fluffier than table sugar. Indeed, one of the concerns substituting granular Splenda for sugar in recipes is that it fizzles away to nearly nothing, resulting in a smaller volume.

Specifically, a big bag of Splenda weighs 9.7 ounces, but has the sweetening power of 5 pounds of sugar. Even if we assume that all of that 9.7 ounces is pure carb -- and it's close -- there are far fewer grams of carbohydrate per serving.

To be exact, 5 pounds of sugar contain 2267.961 g of carbohydrate, since all of it is carbohydrate. But assuming that nearly all of the substance of granular Splenda is maltodextrin, that 9.7 ounce bag will have only 274.990 g of carb. That means that measure for measure the granular Splenda will contain approximately 12% of the carbohydrate of sugar.

FYI, the Splenda in the little packets contains less maltodextrin than the granular in the bag, liquid Splenda contains none, making both of these lower carb choices than granular Splenda, though of course one loses the direct cup-for-cup equivalency in sweetness that is meant to simplify recipe conversion.

This does not eliminate my friend's other concerns, which include the newly-discovered fact that our intestines have taste buds, and the mere taste of sweetness contacting those intestinal taste buds may trigger insulin release. Nor does this speak to the concerns many have about sucralose being a man-made substance. But there is no question that teaspoon-for-teaspoon or cup-for-cup granular Splenda is far lower in carbohydrate than sugar.